Giving Medical Marijuana the green light in Illinois - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Giving Medical Marijuana the green light in Illinois

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As of new years day, Illinois became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana.

But we are still a ways away from the day when a patient can walk into a shop and purchase the drug.

In the last few weeks, three Illinois departments in charge of policy for medical marijuana released drafts of the future laws.

The Department of Public Health will handle the details of patient registry, the Department of agriculture will regulate cultivation, and the Department of Financial and Professional regulation will be in charge of distribution.

"So far we're actually ahead of schedule. All three agencies had four months from January 1st to actually propose their rules. And here we are in the middle of February, and we've already got them out there. So presumably within the next three to four weeks I would expect they pass those on down the line," says Chris Lindsey, a Legislative Analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project.  

Illinois will allow 22 cultivation centers to open, one in each State Police district. Distribution centers are where sales will take place.  Sixty of these will open based on population density.

These cultivation and distribution centers will be privately owned by individuals, some may operate as not for profits, others as LLCs. But it could be a while before they're actually in business.

"That's probably going to be very late this year or even into next year because dispensaries are going to have to be licensed, they haven't even been able to apply yet. Cultivation centers have to then grow marijuana, and that can take anywhere from three and a half to four or even more months than that," says Lindsey.  

There are 33 medical conditions eligible for medical marijuana therapy.

"They range from cancer and HIV, which everybody's ahead of, multiple pain syndromes, multiple neurological problems," says Swedish American Group President, Dr. Thomas Schiller.  

And the Department of Public Health has left the door open to add more in the future.

But will doctors in our area recommend the alternative form of medicine to their patients?

Dr. Schiller says, "We're in the business of trying to help. Medical marijuana's going to be an important option to have, but it's really going to be for a very narrow segment of the population. There are alternatives for the same conditions that in most cases are going to be better options and more effective options."

The laws state patients must have a 'bona-fide relationship' with a doctor to quality for medical marijuana.

"I think there will be less abuse because you can't just walk in and claim, 'I have this condition, therefore give it to me,' says Dr. John Dorsey, with Rockford Health System.   

Registered medical marijuana patients will be allowed to buy up to 2 and a half ounces every 2 weeks.

Dr. Dorsey says it's a physician's job to keep an eye out for behaviors associated with abuse.

"People claiming that something happened to their prescription, "It fell in the toilet, left it somewhere, someone stole it.' Things like this, especially if we get those stories repeatedly, make us a little bit suspicious."

Medical marijuana card holders will also have to follow strict rules as to where and when they cannot smoke, like near a school, in a public place, or while driving.

These rules are still in the draft form, and could change before final laws are put in place.

Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance under federal law. And you can still face charges if you are found to be in possession of the drug. Opponents of medical marijuana want to see the drug approved by the FDA before it should be used as medicine.

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